Richard A. Lertzman
Hello friends welcome again to jordan. Rich the podcasts. That the podcast. That highlights conversation with creative people and today no exception. I a thank you to those of you who have ordered my book on air. My fifty year love affair with radio details at jordan rich dot com all proceeds benefit. Boston children's hospital. Today's guest is terrific. His name is richard lert sman and he along with lon davis has written deconstructing the ratpac joey the mob and the summit the rat pack in this case with a capital t. featuring the chairman of the board frank sinatra dean martin. Sammy davis junior. Peter lawford and of course. Joey bishop among others. His book is tell all that brings the inside scoop of just how the mob a future president and five extraordinary performers took the world and las vegas by storm so without any further ado. Let's invite richard alerts men to join us on mike. I'll begin with this. I just saw ocean's eleven for the first time in about fifty years and it was so much fun and it was perfect. Timing because here's your book and is so much here that revolves around this group of individuals. Welcome it's nice to meet you richard george. So it's the sixtieth anniversary of the rat. Pack celebration Is there an actual start date to this particular group of rat packers or what. Yes the start. Date was february of nineteen sixty and never lose based fred's professional friends And they had no each other The the work together and it came together in nineteen fifty-nine ranko nine percent of the sands hotel and he had watched this great. We prima and keely smith. Sam butare at the sahara's lau jack and he loved that looseness that craziness oh prima and when the Owners and the The publicist l. Freeman came to franken said they wanted to create a mega event. He thought of Of the martha hit just worked with some come running and a film and he thought of Of sammy davis junior. Who was just recovering from losing in tramp in a car accident. Frank was kind of pushing them back. Get back on. Stage get his balance and he thought it was great. Enjoy bishop happens to be frank opening act for about eight nine years so he not putting them together no earlier in homely hill he was part of a group with david niven and humphrey bogart alarm a call and mickey rooney and Learn call costs. You look like a pack of rats wrap so when these guys get together. The press started calling them back and in february nineteen sixty got together. Interesting yeah i heard about the the bogey ratpac from a lot of reading on humphrey bogart and all that. And that's kind of cool and lauren. Bacall was a young beautiful lady and she had to. She somehow stuck it out with those guys and was able to put up with and drink with him. I think i mentioned the movie. And was that a planned coming out party for the rat. Pack or whatever. Where did the movie fit in. Ocean's eleven eight. It was all very pleased when they started putting together the summit they called it in las vegas in february nineteenth century Peter lawford had been shopping around the script that he that he got from a gas station attendant. Who ended up his name. Was george clayton johnson. When did up later right. In all a lot of twilight zones logan's were on but at that time he based He in the army he was the black market group out of the army in germany and he thought of the idea bringing the guys when they came back to to the us ever union and to have a heist in las vegas. So that was a script. Frank saw the script from peter. Peter lawford and he says this is so good. You know why should fill much is do this it. So frank took jack warner jack warner loved it. So frank's idea was why. Not shoot this in las vegas where yo- nine percent of the sanzo tell. And jack warner loved it. Because here is if they got free Re shooting Sites in las vegas so frank. The idea was to twenty eight st days on stage like the two shows. Eight o'clock at twelve o'clock seven bucks a ticket and during the nineteen. What do those to go out into the lounge it to the to the casino and causing a lot of our pro gamblers. Wake up at six o'clock in the Bay call of six and we're working all day the film that lewis milestone directed and they did that for twenty eight degrees right right in las vegas and tug about a love letter to the city and a catapult for vegas popularity particularly entertainment right. I mean that lit a fire at that point. That was the plan of the guys. Guys like karl motel. It's carol cohn. Backseat david guys. Who built the city. The so called masters. They said they weren't getting trapped from los angeles and they said why why. We wanna put las vegas on the map but what better to do it with. It was frank sinatra and his buddies so when they plan this out you know where they announced it in january of nineteen sixty. They had two hundred fifty rooms at the santo. Tell have thirty seven thousand reservations so the whole city exploded for twenty eight days. you had. Everybody wanted to be around. Frank dean sammy. I mean everybody wanted to be at the show. You want to be seen be heard that included the future president united states. Who set up to be there. John kennedy by his father. Joe kennedy and his brother in law. Peter lawford so it was explosive. I mean you got every film starling. But row and carey grant. And gary cooper everybody were flying out or driving into las vegas and wanted to be a part of that energy that that frank. Sammy bribe. Indeed we're talking here with you. Richard lert has done a great job on the book. And you had terrific source. It says Joey bishop who is gone now but was one of the last to remain and he granted you quite a few interviews so you must have gleaned a lot from from his inside perspective for about eighteen twenty years. I got to know jodi. Joy had burned a lot of bridges you know. It was very unpopular because he was tough on producers. He was tough really tough out writers at burn a lot bridges and so the last twenty thirty years of his life was pretty He was basically retired out newport beach and in where he lived in a gated community. And so i you know he really he initially said. I wanna talk about the pack but when it came down to it he really. This was his high point of his career. Because here he was. He was the emcee of the inaugural event for john. Kennedy because of frank sinatra and pictures of kennedy all over the wall there are pictures of him and frank dean And he had great stories to tell one his his toughness burnoff he really shared a lot about What during that whole period and about franken dean and sammy and and he thought he was the the glue. The rat pack and i hated the alam but the ramp was deemed franken. Sammy joy was. That was a good journeyman comic. Frank used because he never sucked the. You're out of the room. He wasn't like he brought up. Buddy hackett or don rickles or sheki green you know. Would the exhaust you audience to. Frank came out. Frank wanted the audience just warmed up enough. That's what joey joey was. A guy like pat henry later or countries said weapon for frank who just warmed them up enough for. Frankly come out big show. It makes sense because when you watch whatever exists of the rat pack film archives. You realize franken dean are just knocking it out of the park. One liners and and sammy to in. Their timing is impeccable. I wanna talk about the performances. But i do want to continue to talk about the personalities. Many people who remember. Peter lawford remember him as a suave actor from the forties and fifties. I think anything goes not good news. That was the movie. I remember him and a bunch of other things but i mean he was not exactly what you would call the typical Italian street kid who becomes a member of a ratpac and yet he does. How much of that is because of his political connections quote unquote well. It really was almost all because of that. Franken and peter had known each other from mgm studios and i wrote earlier. Book called the life attention that ruining penal law firm was known for his. He was a big gossip around the studio and he got in trouble. David gardner mickey's first wife. And he did the same with frank. He got franken trouble able to and early fifties. Frank came to a party to to The hip peter the job for for what he started with a so. He did talk to peter for a long time. And when peter got married patricia kennedy. Frank was interesting. This franken done everything. You could do showbusiness. He's whether he won. The academy award was one of the great singers he could do. You could do everything but he wanted. He loved yet. You've been president. Make so he wanted to get closer to drag kennedy and the only way to do that. We'll be peter lawford. So that's what he got. Peter script and when peter came to him and said we that joe kennedy wants to bring john kennedy to the summit for three days at the scene. Frank accommodated them and frank was happy to do that. And joe kennedy. Didn't want son to look like richard nixon. This very batch -i even though john rich richard nixon close to the same age told. Her statue onto is subtle cool to a young generation energetic frank and and the guys gave him that opportunity in fact they eventually started calling the jack pat. They support them. All through the year ran for president high hopes and all that right the song soccer kennedy at the democratic convention. Sixty or any information that we now know about kennedy's Anything anytime during that period in vegas was was he a good boy. It vegas vegas. He was on his best behavior because he was there for appearances. But what happened. Was that joe. Kennedy had talked to his old buddies. Joe had even though. Joe was that the ambassador to the same. James was you know bastard. England he he Had he had known the racketeers because he had worked in prohibition with Up in boston. So he went to to sam giancana mobile anna and tomorrow lansky to mobile and he said you know. There's a lot of heat in las vegas. If my son becomes president will draw. Eat off of you. You'll make sure he doesn't go after you. And he said well what i want from you guys. Want a billion dollar campaign donation and john kennedy. Was there as the bag man. The pick up that million dollars. So savvy peter said you have to see and he took sammy back to karl kohn sweet and in there was a was a satchel with a million dollars in with a set of handcuffs. John kennedy after the three day. What back on a plane with it handcuffed to his hand a million dollars actually took back. The joe. kennedy is such a maze. Because joe had a stroke and bobby kennedy decided to go after. Gmo macchia right and told them in front of the senate. Don't you get like a girl and who knows what happened from that spiracy put. That is such an incredible story to think that You talking about cash now really. We're not talking about a a chit. We're talking about cash right. It wasn't a regular camp lake campaign donations from the wrong guys. You don't want to cross absolutely. We're talking here with richard lert. Sman a tremendous new book called deconstructing. The ratpac joey. The mob and the summit and the reason joey's mentioned is as we just discussed. He was a big part of The interview process for richard. Take us back a little bit before we talk about. What eventually befell them and talk about some of the personalities involved dean martin. It's usually assumed by people in the know that he wasn't in his cups he wasn't drunk all the time that was apple juice or something. He was young. He liked to drink but it was an act. I read about that. Oh you can't do that kind of eight and twelve and wake up the next morning and and be drinking all the time and for dean. It was an act. He was created that you know he. He liked to drink on his own time but professionally. Dean was was a pure professional. So tina martin said one hundred percent whenever she went up on stage of it was always apple juice in his class. You know he played the part of a happy drunk. And that's what sold the You know d mark was in his own life. Your family man and a lot of ways he would go home and jeannie onetime. Gd threw a party in beverly hills. And it's eight o'clock at dean. Said i don't want anymore. This he goes up to his room gets in his pajamas and start watching westerns. And all of a sudden it's nine thirty. The party spoke going out loud. Team calls the beverly hills police and has his own house I love watching him watching the a western getting a joint. I just i. It's always incredible to see how cool he is in an all of his the near and my favorite line is this is as good as i'm gonna be all day or something You know this is when i wake up. You're gonna feel all day team will team was was super cool. He just in real life just never took. It seriously played golf. All day was a pure professional. No matter what what you would say he knew what he was doing. And and you just you know just watching them before a clip with bill and harry mills was his hero as a singer and he. Just you see that that that ease stage it so few people have that just energy at ease and great funny and stage. He had his entire career. He really did until till the end when when he got down after a sunday. An amazing performer. Let's talk about sammy for a minute. You mentioned it was shortly after the accident. That took his almost took his life and he lost an i m and sammy davis. Junior of people have read the book. Yes i can. What an amazing guy. One of my favorite all time entertainers. But what was it. Like for him in places like vegas was he. It was tough you know. He was part of with his dad. The part of the will master tree up and you know they face segregation wherever they went. You know sammy this during the time of the rat pack sammy was was this at the sands hotel and in the sands hotel. The pulled had a floating crap game and they'll play crap right in the middle of the pool. Sammy decides to swim. Swimming at the deep end jumps in and the gamble is turn around. They tell the head of the hotel karl. Kohn cairo code has to drain the pool. Scrubbing sammy jump to. Wow and how do you feel when you when you have that face you. Sammy was was going with may britt. Who was a blonde sweetest actress. We've actually varied and there's tremendous hatred and he got eight letters from everywhere about that and sammy wasn't even allowed to stay until frakes put his flipped out in normal las vegas because there was a quarter african american in the downtown area so it was a it was a tough go. He had so much talent he could think could dance. You do a persecution. And i've stage. There's another dynamo that you really can't capture philby. Had to see him in person really know how much electricity touche one of the most amazing performance. And i've always heard that sinatra did indeed stick up for him and others and he had a lot of peccadilloes but never. Did anyone accused him of not being fair when it came to race and things like that yet richard. Let's take it to the stage and if you take a look at what they did on stage in two thousand eight hundred twenty two thousand twenty one. You'd have the thought police and the wo- crowd just banning them for life. Because this stuff they did was funny as hell and yet it was pro certainly not politically correct comment. If you will on the material that they did you know it's no question you know. The metoo are group's like that would really come down their throats. Twenty twenty you watch ocean's eleven and it's kind of a guilty pleasure but you're talking about women as ring addicting picture of the book you know striking we want broads with franken emptying and it was. It's of the time you know it was. This is the last breath of this full out misogyny and no matter what it's still you know sixty years later. People forgot about a lot of things. But there's maybe twenty or thirty rat pack tribute groups that go around the country and people still love that kind of humor. You know you have to tone it down then you watch ocean's eleven and a lot of films that frank. Did you know it was a of the time you have to consider you know the time of the place but It was hysterical watching. You know i. I watch with my wife. And she's like greater t launch dickinson's treated it ocean's eleven or or shirley maclaine but you know it. It was what it was at that. Time i'm thinking of The live performance that was captured on tape on film Where dean picks up literally picks. Sammy davis up off the floor. And says i want to thank the end of lacey pe- for this award and i mean obviously now it would never happen but it's a showstopper brings the house down and sammy's right there with them going along with did. He generally think that was the appropriate way for him to behave. Did he have any issues. Do you know sammy sammy. Sammy really you know went along with it was all part of the but the fact was that oath that the the group is the ratpac especially the one when you saw the nineteen sixty s the summit every lie was written including that one they had. The writers name was don sherman and his daughter. Amy sherman palladino. Who writes mrs maisel. That sherman road for actually bishop be wrote for Jack prior he wrote for a lot of comics. Along the way lenny. Bruce was good friends at the was very very scripted. So if you saw the eight o'clock show and you went back for the twelve you'd see the same show you'd be seeing that same joke so that same joke. That played in Beside the house in saint louis That he did that they they did that. That joke was was was pre written. And so sammy knew was coming every new coming in. And you know it's part. It was very very look have liberals very very highly. Well that's the magic of it i think. And and you're right in the middle of writing about these great guys. They were so cool in real life And onstage they just sounded like they were just making it up and say every other show is the same and yet it was. It was pure magic in terms of the film. They made a couple of other films. After ocean's eleven didn't they they. They made a film called sergeant street with before ratpac again then after searches three. There was a falling out with peter lawford. Then joey bishop made his film called Robin and seven. And that had sambi crank and dean and replacing. Joey bishop was gyco. This guy gisborne was peter. Falk and replacing peter falk was bing crosby and it was kind of. There's a little irony that bing crosby replaced. Peter falk offered right right. It's funny you should say. Peter falk and bing crosby though you know why from what i understand yeah. Bing crosby was considered for the part of colombo beyond cohen. Peter falk with. Of course i knew that i was just teasing directly from Dick levinson lincoln levinson. Who wrote that Great shelter so. Let's talk about how things fall apart obviously personalities in hollywood always you know we know about jerry and dean. We know about dean and frank and all that but Politically there were some movement of the with kennedy and the famous trip to vegas when he stays with being instead of frank is huge. What happened in that affair. Frank love the eggs. Eddie was close to power and he together. He really went around the country with the rest of the guys pushing for kennedy. So the payoff would be kennedy. Would come and a western white house would be in palm springs where franken has become pound. So everything's planned out since nineteen sixty two. Everything's plans out for the president to come out and visit crank out there and frank bills who builds buildings for meetings. He builds An area for the secret service and everything's being built up and then it comes out that frank was partners with sam giancana the live with martin and joe kennedy tells it tells bobby there's no way that i want. That job is going to go out there. So john and joe kennedy tell. Peter lawford wished his brother lonzo ball. And they said peter. You you're the messenger. Boy and peter goes boat or so. Peter has to call frank and said break John won't be flying out to you. Pray what do you mean he goes. You know it doesn't you know the old man doesn't want this and He's gonna be flying bing crosby's house in palm springs instead of yours which makes it double because being crosby was a republican so franks at the next sound you hear slams out on the phone and peter was tossed out of the next film robin seven hundred and tossed out of anything to do with frank and frank really bad thousand. He was unreliable. So career was really damaged by that one move and as we all know in a few years or a few decades later. Frank is running the inauguration for republican. ronald reagan. Yeah he was old friends with and playing. Frank wrote be near the power and he loved being at the center there and it was an interesting You know part of rank. It's so much more interesting. Richard when you think about giancana and judith exner and all the connections with kennedy in the romance and at least what we've read about over the years i mean this is this is you couldn't make this a movie plot and expect anyone to buy it and yet it's true it's amazing so in terms of the performances on stage beyond the twenty eight that you talked about that we're the centerpiece. I know. they did some chicago and midwestern performances. Right the next step. They go back to los angeles event in april of nineteen sixty the blue hotel where they also feel special elvis presley and frank and alvis kind of Bury the hatchet next generation. And so they're they're they're at the Los angeles in los angeles at the democratic convention. And then in las vegas it's at the premiere of ocean's eleven they did shows for Parise in for Santana semi was own encore presentation when he asked for them so when he wanted the baddest place the also that They eventually to get an house. Showing saint louis They did one more. Show las vegas in nineteen sixty six but basically the rant onstage. He had no desire to go back into a team. You didn't want to be you. Don't go to team brought with jerry west. So he didn't wanna be peaking franken. They all have their own separate careers. But you know by being together it gives them all this attention so no. Sammy was broadly. During that period you know tranquil movies and and what he did and and dean was busy with his showing off his his. Apparently thank you. Sixty was at big year truly interesting. I'm remembering back in boston in the late eighties. I believe it was when They had a tour. And it was supposed to be frank dean and sammy and frank dean got ill took ill and liza minnelli came in it. Would for me would have been the coolest thing in the world to see the three of them together. But i guess it just wasn't destined to happen now. They get to together and they did a few shows. Kogyo and frank. He just was added up to it. His son had died and team made enough money and he just said this is wanted to call the career and so being backed out you know. Said he went to the hospital. Rank was really angry. Place to light when with liza minnelli and that show toured around the country for about a year. That's the one i saw that. Yeah yeah but you know. They still were standing near the end of his life. He died from cancer a couple of years after that and they didn't have that energy that they had nineteen sixty but was almost thirty years later. Right i mean the idea of a bunch of guys in tuxedos most of them smoking drinking something and talking about women the way they did assist incredible. Here's one sort of philosophical question. I guess we remember in the eighties. There was something called the brat. Pack which. I never got into quite frankly but there have been attempts to sort of use the name and Bring up the new personalities. The nothing compares. Will there ever be in your estimation at a conflagration of talent like these guys and gals on stage. I don't think know this was a once in a lifetime. Event that really such great talent and not just you. These guys who were made for steaks t martin for the natural on. Sammy davis junior was so explosive. Seeing frank was one of a time when he went on stage of the voice and the power he held over his audience. So you put like a once. In a lifetime event. Such great talent. I mean would stock and other things that have advanced but never like just three is at at the top of their game like that. You might have read the book not too many years. Go by pete hamill about sinatra. Have you read that one about the style and the the thing quote unquote that is sinatra. I would apply that to all three of them. Three main players Because it was it was something that you really can't describe but you know it when you see it i think. And that's what that's what struck me and i'm younger. I didn't see the luck in the middle of a magical time. That's what people realize those twenty eight days. This is something that you're not going to see again. And they were there. There were poor and their their their way to play off of each other and the way they just held on the palm of their hand and sinatra. And i've seen sinatra states just just absolutely amazing waiting held in audience I used to watch that. Saw martin in las vegas and he was great. I've stayed he was so cool and funny and he played his drunk. Acting and sammy was the same amazing. It's funny to us. I think about this talking with you. I'm delighted to have you as a guest. I'm thinking of the remake of the film. Ocean's eleven with george clooney all star cast. It was a lot of fun. Carl reiner if you go back and watch the original albeit dated. There's something so special about that one. I mean everything about a the fact that it's in vegas and its them. It's all these guys getting together. And people like henry silva who i thought was one of my favorites whether he played a villain or not I mean all these great character actors got together to it's tough to barrel pranks old friend hank henry of area and yet every you know great character actor was part of the cast. Norman fell and others were and it was fun. Seems like a time warp of a lot of las vegas. You'll not you would not see after that after. They were there after this film. I'll say guess. Exploding caesar's palace popped up with circus circus. But that was a different place at different time. Greek fill your book will bring back that life at least in our nation's which was great and it's called deconstructing the rat. Pack joey the mob in the summer. Tell me a little bit about lawn davis to. I'm reading his background here. he's Quite an interesting gentleman what he's written while africa friend of mine line is a story in that written books From silent film to who. I just read the book. I'm the keystone cops call chase and lounge done. By the editors documentaries it'll be tc about francis x bushman. Who is in ben hur and a career and Just a really a film aficionado and television fishing. I don't know you know what i forgot. He knows well. You know a lot. Believe me and You've been sharing it with me and sharing with others. I wanna wish you the best. It was great to meet you and Continued success as we relive a tremendous moment in entertainment history. Thank you so much. Richard think medicare thanks again. Richard alerts mun co author. Along with law davis of deconstructing the ratpac joey. The mob and the summit a must read for my listeners. You'll love the book. thanks again. Everyone who makes this show possible. Dan tibo fast which media ken carberry. Hr productions and certainly to all of you podcast listeners. Who continue to spread the word and we recently surpassed forty two thousand independent lists and the appreciate again details about me and my new book on air available at jordan. Rich dot com. I will see you next time until then be well so you can do good take.